Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the federal law that provides the legal framework and rights and responsibilities for special education services. This law enables qualifying children with special needs to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
On November 29, 1975, President Gerald Ford signed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142). This landmark civil rights measure enabled millions of children with disabilities to receive formal educations in the public-school setting. This law, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), guaranteed access for qualifying children with special needs to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Prior to 1975, nearly 1.8 children with disabilities were excluded from public schools. Since 1975, children with disabilities are not only allowed access to public schools, but they also have the right to receive a FAPE.
The stated purpose of the IDEA is:
- to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living;
- to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and parents of such children are protected;
- to assist States, localities, educational service agencies, and Federal agencies to provide for the education of all children with disabilities;
- to assist States in the implementation of a statewide, comprehensive, coordinated, multidisciplinary, interagency system of early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families;
- to ensure that educators and parents have the necessary tools to improve educational results for children with disabilities by supporting system improvement activities; coordinated research and personnel preparation; coordinated technical assistance, dissemination, and support; and technology development and media services;
- to assess, and ensure the effectiveness of, efforts to educate children with disabilities.